Père Chenu, Mentor and Namer of Creation Spirituality

My deep thanks to Rick Reich for filling in for me this past month at the Daily Meditations. And for other members of our team who altered their schedules when times demanded it to keep things going, including Phila Hoopes, Cynthia Greb, and Rosanna Tufts; and, behind the scenes, Dennis Edwards and Ellen Kennedy. 

Re-Wilding efforts in places that once had heavy industrial farming, help restore Britain’s wildlife habitats. Photo by Ray B’s world. Wikimedia Commons.

As we continue with our Daily Meditations I will be shortening my meditations slightly and offering one video per week in order to continue to lend time to my book on Chenu.


The reason for my absence this past month was to focus more on the book I am writing about my mentor and soul-friend, Père M.D. Chenu, OP who named the Creation Spirituality lineage for me. 

I remember vividly that day in Paris in Spring, 1968 (the last class he ever taught, for he retired from teaching after that semester) when he told us that there are two spiritual traditions in Christianity: That which begins with the Fall (“la chute”) and that which begins with Creation.

“Marie-Dominique Chenu,” from biography in Backward View blog, 2/12/2012; photographer unknown

Where one begins makes all the difference—especially if one understands the “Fall” as “Original Sin” which is, as I think I have made evident in my research and writings, not a Biblical concept and indeed contrary to Jewish thinking. As Elie Weisel says, “original sin is not only not in the Bible but it introduces an idea that is contrary to Jewish thinking.”

Thus, my book Original Blessing which caused so much upset to the previous two papacies. Not so with the current one, as one can see in Pope Francis’s encyclical on saving the environment, Laudato Si. 

The Creation Story makes sense scientifically, if you realize its “days” are cosmic days, not earthly days. Video by Gooogolplex.

Another way to recognize Original Blessing as a Biblical way of seeing the world, is to re-read Genesis chapter one (yes, the first page of the Bible). No mention of fall or sin or evil. Instead, the Yahwist author presents a cosmology, a story of the history of the universe where the word “good” comes up as a mantra whenever beings are birthed, including light, earth, seas, vegetation, sun, moon, stars, every kind of living creature, humans.

And at the very end and taken together and after humans arrive, the entire circle of creation is pronounced very good. The problems humans pose beginning with the story of the Fall, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and the rest—they are saved for chapter three and following.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality Presented in Four Paths, Twenty-Six Themes, and Two Questions.

And Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

And Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 79-82.

Banner Image: Creation is stunningly biodiverse: A Special Area of Conservation in Spain’s Caleao Telework Camp Wiews. Photo by Benigno Varillas. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Who are important mentors in your life and what followed from their mentorship?

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

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6 thoughts on “Père Chenu, Mentor and Namer of Creation Spirituality”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Who are important mentors in your life and what followed from their mentorship? My first mentors were my Greek professor, Madelyn Haldeman, my Systematic Theology professor Richard Rice, and my Philosophy professor, Fritz Guy. But my longest mentor has been you, Matthew. I first heard you speak at a conference just before you were silenced. Then I read your books, and when UCS opened I immediately enrolled. And now I have been involved with Creation Spirituality for some 35 years. And I have a site on Facebook called, “Creation Spirituality Teachings.” Thank you sooo much for everything you have taught me, and for inviting me to fill in last month.

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    My mother, my grandfather and great grandfather and the faith tradition I was brought up in are mentors. My great grandfather, lived in Firenze. He worked in a factory and was an artist as well. He copied one of the ‘Masters’ paintings of Jesus carried after the Cross. He was ‘silk stitching’ the painting, when he met an untimely death.

    My grand father, ‘my hero’, arrived by himself, in Canada to start a new life and earned a living working for the railway. There were a lot of Italian immigrants living in Hamilton and that is where he worked. He spent a lot of time helping others, newly arrived in Canada to get started, fed, and found work / accommodation for them. After saving, he was able to bring his wife and children to Canada. My mother was the only sibling born in Canada and her older brother was hit by a car and died three days before her birth.

    It was my mother that took me to church and enrolled me in Catholic school. When I was just 6 years old, my hero, suddenly ‘disappeared’ into a sanitarium with tuberculosis, without a hug or a good-bye. That and his death afterwards, was my first real lesson in sadness. To this day I greatly miss him. But what is faith if not to get us through set-backs and sadness. The sun rises every new day as do love and joy.

    My great grandfather’s artwork did make it across the ocean and hung in our house when it was passed down to mom. Passed down again to myself it has a sacred spot in my home now. — BB.

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    I’ve had several mentors throughout my spiritual journey. Upon reflection within today’s DM query, I realized that they were all teaching me one very important eternal truth… which is to trust in one’s own direct, personal, intimate and authentic soul vine connection of relationship and life long companionship WITH the Great Mystery, God, Holy Spirit or whatever else you might name the creator of the all and the everything as. My many teachers mirror reflected this spiritual reality of mentorship… that unfolds, evolves and emerges from within… within this living sacred relationship WITH… which I try to be and live in… converging with this…. with a surrendered faith, hope and trust… in response to… the many diverse ways I am being mentored throughout this incredible soul journey of life.

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    I think the marked absence of any mentor has been a defining element in my life. However, when I read the question, my first thought was of musician Kate Bush. During early years when I was suffering under the thumb of a domineering older brother and a mentally abusive husband, for me the world of her music validated feminine wisdom and power … and suffering. I felt encouraged to trust more in my own creativity and intuition, and eventually found the nerve to leave a bad situation.

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    The important mentors of my ongoing spiritual journey have been the past and present mystics, saints, and shamans who have increased my Faith and ongoing understanding of Our CO-CREATOR~SOURCE’S LIVING LOVING PRESENCE within, through, among Us — especially in our beautiful sacred Mother Nature/Earth with All Her living creatures and graceful abundance, and also mysteriously With-In All physical and non-physical Sacred multidimensional-multiverse ongoing Co-Creation~Evolving ETERNAL LOVING INTELLIGENCE Diverse COSMIC ONENESS~WHOLENESS….

  6. Avatar

    Looking back, I believe Spirit (God’s Teacher/Action-in-process in the world) was my “mentor,” leading, nudging, challenging, comforting, and even sometimes playfully subverting my ego’s expectations, gifting me with a rich banquet of spiritual lessons and perspectives. I always felt a trust and gratitude for the many idea-gifts presented for my contemplation and evaluation. In Spirit I learn and grow.

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